How to build a brilliant sandcastle
For the young (or young at heart), it wouldn’t be summertime without sandcastles on the beach. Sand artists Claire Jamieson and Jamie Wardley inspire us with tips on texture and turrets.
Choose the right place
‘We’re blessed with some incredible beaches to enjoy,’ enthuses Jamie from Sand In Your Eye. A good beach for sand sculpting means fine angular sand grains, rather than round grains. You can find some of the best sand on beaches close to estuaries. Choose one that’s got RNLI lifeguards for safety.
Based in Yorkshire, Claire and Jamie’s favourite local beach is Filey. They also recommend Blackpool, Weymouth, Weston-super-Mare, Prestatyn, Broad Haven, St Andrews, the Outer Hebrides, Murlough and Duncannon.
Pick the right time
Time it wrong and you’ll be racing against high water, risking your castle being washed away prematurely or – worse – finding yourself cut off by the tide. Jamie advises: ‘Get there just as the tide is beginning to go out, so you’ll have maximum time and the sea won’t be too far for collecting extra water.’
Build your sandcastle
One of the biggest mistakes people make when building sandcastles is not adding enough water: ‘If the sand is too dry, your structure will not stick together and will quickly fall apart,’ says Claire.
‘For a castle, begin with a strong “volcano” base, with a large crater. Into this, pour a bucket of water and tamp [pack] it into the sand with your fingers, vibrating the sand into place. When all the water has soaked in, the sand will go harder – giving you a solid base to build on.’
Tools of the trade
Your hands are great tools, but Claire and Jamie also recommend a small shovel, a wooden ruler and an ice lolly stick for adding shape and detail. A wooden float or tray, can help you build additional features. Tools are easily lost, so avoid plastic if you can.
‘With a castle, initially build up the structure by keeping one hand still and bringing the sand up against it, patting at it with the other hand to make it firm,’ Jamie advises. ‘For the walls, pinch down on the top with your thumbs.'
Jamie adds: ‘Build impressive towers by mixing sand in a bucket with water until it is gooey and the water is above the sand. Take a handful at a time and make a mud pie, gently tapping it with your finger tips until it sets hard. Then add another until you have a tower of sand to carve.’
Use your ruler to cut the shapes of the walls and towers, and your lolly stick to make larger holes and small windows.
Now you can work on the details. Jamie recommends: ‘To add protective crenellations or battlements on walls and towers, take wet muddy sand onto your wooden float and compact it down with dry sand on top, patting it into a large “chocolate bar”. Cut this into small cubes and space them at regular intervals around the walls and towers.
‘Every castle needs a drawbridge! Simply dig a moat around the castle wall, get someone to make a loose fist with their hand, then build and compact sand over the top of it. Then gently pull the hand out and use the ruler to shape and neaten it.’
Sand safety top tips
- Visit a lifeguarded beach, where trained professionals are on hand to keep you safe.
- Check the tide times to avoid a premature washout or tidal cut-off around headlands and sandbars.
- Do not dig deep holes in the sand; the sides can easily collapse, trapping people.
- Avoid really saturated sand, with a danger of sinking.
- Consider exposure – both sun and windchill. Take sunscreen and layers.
For more sand sculpture inspiration, visit sandinyoureye.co.uk.